Google TV, Movl, Connected TV Apps and Social Gaming

written by: Richard Kastelein

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Alan Queen - CTO and Founder of MOVL, has penned an interesting post over at the Google TV Blog on the gamification of the living room using Connected TVs and mobile devices to engage viewers both in-house and virtually to compete.

Am I wrong in thinking that this is kind of already what happens with gaming consoles such as Sony Playstation, Nintendo Wii and Microsoft  Xbox? This is not integration with broadcast TV, but simply using the big screen for casual interactive and social gaming. 

Let's look at some numbers from Europe... there are approximately 8 million Wii’s in the UK market, and another 8 million PS3’s and Xbox’s. The Wii tends to end up in the living room as the family device while the PS3 and Xbox migrate to other rooms in the house where they can be played by a more hardcore gaming demographic. Game consoles have significant penetration and are in fact,where the largest adoption has taken place for third party applications - far ahead of Connected TVs. 

I am not sure whether this is a reinvention of the wheel… or a viable proposition. I think the idea of play-a-long with TV shows is a winner – as Monterosa has proven with literally hundreds of thousands of people playing along in real time on second screens with the hit TV game show, Million Pound Drop – they even picked up a Bafta for it. Think of all that back inventory of old game show formats that can be dragged out of the vaults and revived with play-a-long formats – that can even be monetized with micropayments (see American Idol).

If your household is anything like ours, you probably notice everyone tapping away on their phones with their attention bouncing back and forth between the TV and the phone or tablet. So we thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could create an experience that takes advantage of the fact that everyone uses their mobile device while crowded around the TV, and create something that brings people together into a shared social experience.

I agree with Queen on the fact that currently, viewers do a lot of bouncing back and forth – but let’s be honest – the second screen is primarily used during commercials… and in the USA there are an unbearable 3 minutes of TV ads every 7-8 minutes – it’s no wonder that people are toting their mobile devices with them during regular TV viewing. And then, if they are playing games using their mobile devices as controllers -  will they actually be too distracted by other all the other ‘push’ features on their mobile devices that will offer up even more distractions? Layers of distractions...

Our first app WeDraw.tv, is a drawing/guessing game where the TV acts as the game board and players use their Android and iOS devices as game controllers to draw pictures and guess secret words. You can find it in the GoogleTV Spotlight and it’s most fun when you get several people playing together in real time.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the WeDraw.tv app Movl built and won the US Samsung US TV App contest with… but I am not sure that the connected TV app store will be a portal page – unless TV manufacturers and their partners force it over linear broadcast – which would simply turn the old ‘Legacy TV’  into another App.  Then again, I am perhaps underestimating the power of Netflix in the USA and how much that is a draw for Smart TV buyers as an incentive to go to App pages.

Another app we are working on for GoogleTV is PokerFun.tv, which expands on this idea by providing a way to link multiple TVs in different households into one social experience. In PokerFun, the TV acts as the poker table, and players use their mobile devices to hold their cards and place their bets. Here’s a video overview of how it works

Now their idea of poker certainly has wheels. With the current popularity of Texas Holdem’ and other games, it’s turned into a super sport globally – both online and on the live circuit.

If they tie that into Skype TV I think we have a winner – because visuals, bluffing, feigning, and emotional analytics are what the game is really about. Avatars add an interesting layer to the game, but let’s face it; Poker is all about the sweat or lack of it dripping off the brow.

We think the future of TV apps will be one where mobile devices play a critical role, so we’ll be continuously updating our lineup of multi-device apps for Google TV. We’re just getting started and excited about where the platform is headed and there’s no doubt the connected TV space is heating up.

I agree. And can’t wait. But will consumers treat the App store on their televisions like they do on their mobile devices? Without have to first having to move away from long form content, drama, reality shows, sports, game show, documentaries and everything else they are used to with linear broadcast to play a game? Or are they just going to hit the Xbox, PS3, or Wii and do it with superior graphics, chip technology and the familiarity of their gaming networks and friends that already exist?

Will the TV App store on the big screen be a repository mainly for video on demand rather than a casual gaming hub? Only time will tell.

 

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